Some school leavers may need to rethink their options as some bad news emerges from tertiary institutions, with one large Auckland PTE closing down completely.
In the last quarter of 2017, we have learned:
- NorthTec in Whangarei is planning to cut courses and staff after making a $4.5 million loss;
- Tai Poutini in Greymouth looks like it will need to partner with another institution to keep operating;
- More than 1000 staff at Massey University have been asked to consider quitting their jobs;
- Auckland-based Best Pacific Institute of Education will shut down leaving 1200 students wondering what happens next.
And these institutions are not on their own – a number of others have closed this year, while the country’s largest polytechnic, Unitec, continues to battle after losing millions in 2016 after outsourcing many of its administrative roles.
Individually these might just be stories about bad management decisions, but taken together they show that all is far from booming in some parts of the tertiary sector. The head of the Tertiary Education Union – the group that speaks for many tertiary staff - Dr Sandra Grey said 10 of NZ’s 16 institutes of technology or polytechnics were planning course cuts and job losses.
Why is the sector under strain?
There are a number of factors making life difficult for the tertiary institutes:
- We got work; the economy is rolling along and creating new jobs for school leavers and others so study or training is less important. When the economy is not going so well, numbers in education and training grow.
- There are less of you school leavers. Research company Infometrics says the number of leavers peaked in 2013 at 62,500. This will be down to 53,000 by 2020.
- The number of foreign students is starting to decline; many institutions and PTEs rely heavily on these high fee paying students, and many of these students come for the chance to stay in NZ, not the quality of the courses they do.
Are there easy solutions to this?
Silver bullets and easy fixes are rare in the education business. They require collaboration and will mean some institutions – at all levels – will need to rethink some of the courses they offer and where they do this.
In the case of the 1200 students from Best Pacific, efforts are being made to find them alternative ways to continue their courses, but it’s really unlikely all 1200 will be able to move easily and complete the education they started.
Future students in Northland and the West Coast (plus other regions of course) will find their options may be restricted, however more of these options should point to better job prospects. Local, regional and national employment opportunities will increasingly guide what is being taught.
New ways of learning and training may need to be included as realistic options for school leavers. Microcredentials giving you what you need to know to get underway might be a better choice for some students.
Study the institution too
For NZ school leavers, the decision to continue learning at tertiary level should be a little easier with the new government’s commitment to gradually bring in three years of fees free study or training. It’s also pretty vital that the institution you start at is still around when you hope to finish. Perhaps the most important study a school leaver should be doing is looking at the place he or she plans to enrol in.